Digital Campaign of the Week: Lumos's Children Need Families Not Orphanages

The charity has enlisted the author JK Rowling to narrate a short film that educates viewers about the damage that can be done by orphanages around the world

Lumos's film
Lumos's film

What is it?

Lumos, the charity for disadvantaged children, has produced an animated film narrated by its founder, the author JK Rowling, to raise international awareness of the plight of the eight million children across the world who live in orphanages. The three-minute film, which is aimed at policy-makers, the media and supporters and is being shared on the charity’s YouTube channel and on Twitter and Facebook, is hoped to build support for Lumos’s call to end the use of orphanages and institutions for children by 2050.

Why now?

The film was launched on 4 September to coincide with the advocacy work Lumos has been doing to influence the language of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for 2015 to 2030, which are expected to be adopted later this month. The charity hopes to persuade the UN to use the number of children living away from their families as a target against which it measures the success of the goals. The film was also deliberately released on the same day as a Huffington Post blog by Lumos’s US policy director, the relaunch of the charity’s #LetsTalkLumos website, which is designed to encourage supporters to publicise Lumos’s work on social media and the publication of its 2014 annual review.

How successful has it been?

The campaign performed strongly on Twitter during the first six days: a link to the film was retweeted 1,800 times and generated an additional 1,200 followers for the charity. JK Rowling’s tweet about the film alone was retweeted almost 1,000 times. Lumos’s Facebook content was viewed by more than six times the number of people that had viewed it the week before and five times as many people "liked" or shared it. Traffic to the charity’s website went up by 1,500 per cent and the film was viewed more than 11,700 times in six days.

What the charity says

Vicky Gillings, head of communications at Lumos, says: "Lumos is always looking for ways to translate our at times complicated subject matter for a digital audience, and we think the film’s success is a reflection of this. We wanted a film that would explain why we have this situation globally of orphanage ‘care’ but also, rather than focus on the negative, we wanted to inspire change and outline how this problem – unlike so many issues – is solvable and reversible. Using animation means that we can cover this complex issue creatively and in a short timeframe. We hope this film will continue to play its small part in raising awareness of this important child protection and child rights issue."

Third Sector verdict

Children Need Families Not Orphanages is a compelling film aimed at influencing through evidence and logic rather than storytelling and emotion, despite being narrated by a well-known children’s author. Rather than being a fundraising campaign, its aim is clearly to educate supporters and decision-makers about the damage that can be done by orphanages, although it also makes the important point that donations ought to be redirected away from orphanages and towards organisations that work with children in a way that is better for their mental development. The film may be a little too long, at three and a half minutes, to maintain viewer’s attention throughout. For its message to really cut through, it could also benefit from support from some global politicians or celebrities other than Rowling, who did establish the charity after all, as well as from some national media coverage.

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